Painting/Staining Kitchen Cabinets? Who has Experience?

ms222March 2, 2013

So the house I moved in has this existing kitchen setup where the cabinets don't fit in with the theme/colors of the house, but I can't afford a new 25-30k kitchen right now. So for now the best option is to paint or stain the kitchen cabinets white. I don't know where they come from and if they are plywood or not, but it seems like maybe they are low grade cabinets from home depot or lowes.

Anyone have suggestions on different products and what I should do to turn the cabinets white without taking them off? Should I use a paint brush roller or a paint brush? What are the best brands and material to use that won't cost a fortune?

I'm nervous if I paint it, the cabinets will look like there are brush marks everywhere.

Pics below:

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Your doors are full overlay meaning that none of the cabinet box is visible, except on the end of a run. This is good news. They look like clear varnished maple doors. You would take the doors off, sand off the finish (or use liquid sanding paper - more work in my experience), prime and stain or paint. If you stain you'll also have to finish with a clear polyurethane or varnish, depending on what you like.

There are cabinet paints, but you can use any paint or stain you want. I've used diluted latex paint to get the look of a stain. Check out the woodworking forum for more details. This is one project where it matters less what you use, and more how you use it - the end result depends on your technique. If you're not going to sand between coats and let things dry properly, don't start. If you are a beginner you should know that stain is easier to botch than paint.

One thing you're not going to change is that cathedral curve on the upper cabs. If you want to get rid of that, you will have to replace the doors on the upper cabs. In fact, you could replace all the doors/drawers and not have to paint/stain anything but the cabinet ends. Check out Barker Door for more info on that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Barker

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 2:28AM
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This link should give you some good guidance if you want to paint:

Be sure to use good paint, don't go cheap. I used Fine Paints of Europe and used a foam roller and brush depending on the area. I do not see brush strokes. I was very pleased with the results.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 5:58AM
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You're starting with maple, which makes a big difference in the ultimate result as it's very smooth to start with. However, that awful builder grade dodge for the crown molding needs to be ripped off of there. A plain straight molding. on top to just take up the space would make things look less wonky.

Painting is a LOT of work to do correctly, but it's also a lot of money to pay for a professional job, as they have to do the same amount of work for a good job. Below is a set of instructions to ensure that all steps are followed for someone who is looking to have a pro do it, but the same steps apply for DIY.


Here is how I would expect a pro to spray paint kitchen cabinets. A brush painted job would differ slightly in that you wouldn't hang the doors to paint. You'd place them on a work table or easel instead. It's time intensive work, and should take 7-14 days to accomplish completely and cost between 3K-7K depending on kitchen size and amount of detail in cabinets.

Remove doors and drawer fronts.
Remove hinges and hardware.
Clean with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)
Rinse and let dry.
Scrape any loose finish.
Fill any damaged spots or hardware holes that won't be reused.
Sand fill smooth.
Scuff sand the rest.
Tack off dust.
Hang in dust free paint booth with wires through hardware points.
Tack off dust again.
Spray with alkyd based primer.
Scuff sand again.
Tack off dust.
Spray with second coat of primer.
Spray with first finish coat of latex enamel.
Spray with second coat of latex.
If glazing is to occur, that is next.
Spray with conversion varnish.
(If being brush painted, this step is typically skipped.)

Add more molding or decorative details to boxes, filling nail holes and sanding smooth.

Repeat prep process with face frames and exposed cabinet sides using plastic to create a spray booth on site. If interiors are to be done, they are done before face frames and sides. Interiors are difficult, and add both time and expense to the job.

Allow everything to fully cure.
Clean hinges and hardware and clear coat if you're keeping the old hardware.
Install new (or old) hinges and hardware.
Re-install doors and drawers and adjust for proper clearances.

If you are receiving a job without this amount of effort, then you are not receiving a quality professional job.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:53AM
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I am just about finished painting my cabinets, which had already been painted at least twice - the last time badly done by PO with cheap paint and the paint was peeling/chipping.

I found a post on GW about painting cabinets which was very helpful. Essentially, sand the surface to remove and rough or peeling previous pain or in your case to rough up the surface for better adhesion.

Key step: PRIME. Use a good primer, the thread I found recommended the primer I used which was expensive for Primer ($38/gallon) but it did seem to do a great job and I only needed about 1/3 gallon and I had to do cabinet faces as well. It is Sherwin Williams Problock latex primer, designed to adhere to glossy and previously painted surfaces. Use one coat, over-priming is not good.

This primer can be topcoated after 1 hour, so you can apply the paint after that time has elapsed. I am using BM Aura because I wanted a BM color. However BM also has Cabinet Coat which is supposed to be excellent for cabinets. It is more of an enamel finish. I wanted a regular latex because it is more flexible and my cabinets had already been painted a few times so there are multiple paint layers and I suspected a hard paint might crack. For your unpainted cabinets though Cabinet Coat might be better.

I primed and painted the backs of the doors first, then flipped over and did the fronts. That way I could sand off any drips that came around onto the front, and any mars from having the uncured paint face down would be on the inside of the door. I let it all dry for 24 hours before flipping over of course. But the paint is not fully cured at that point. I put the doors on strips of wood to elevate off the ground and allow edges to be painted, but painting on a table would have been far more comfortable. I did it outside because it minimized paint fumes in the house.

I used a brush, not a roller. I've never been able to get paint smooth with those foam rollers I get bubbles everywhere. When painting over original wood you are supposed to paint with the grain not against. Mine I alternated the primer and paint since there is no remaining grain to show through all the existing paint coats!

It's a lot of work but as the kitchen is functional without cabinet doors, you can do a few at a time and not rush.

Having them professionally painted would certainly be a lot easier, but with the paint costs only, it is very cheap (less than $100) to DIY.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 1:08PM
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Thanks for the info guys.

EAM, yes I wish I had boxed uppers and not that cathedral curve, but to replace just the doors of the cabinets and drawers it would costs probably around $3,000 which is ridicolous. I'd rather just paint for about $300 and deal with the cathedral for a couple years before I can afford better.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 1:38AM
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Question, do I really have to sand the cabinets before I prime? If I use a good primer, why can't I prime and then roll paint?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:47PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Because it won't stick as well and be as smooth. There are no shortcuts if you want a good job. You need to lightly sand between coats as well. I wouldn't recommend using a roller either. A brush or a sprayer are the only tools that you should use. And the primer needs to be an oil based stain blocking primer or you'll have tannins and grease bleed through.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 7:35PM
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Hmmm okay, I don't have the option to do a sprayer, I just dont know how I will paint without obvious brush marks.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:06PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Floetrol paint additive will help. But, a sprayer isn't that expensive. Or, a lot of people prefer the hand brushed look because of the brush marks. It shows that it was hand done.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:24PM
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you want your cabs to look awesome --> GET them sprayed by a professional

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 12:58AM
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